The legend of the moon lives in Santa Fe Springs

Dreaming California

After enduring the bounds of an economic system class cabin for greater than 12 hours, then having been subjected to an infernal couple extra in a customs and immigration corridor at LAX, there a number of months in the past, my household and I arrived in Southern California. Keep of 10 days.

The route included the same old duties of vacationers, however in fact I additionally managed to combine some car-related actions into this system. The automobile and popular culture of SoCal within the 50s and 60s has at all times , additionally throughout this fast tour, I actually wished to style somewhat nostalgia.

To start, we headed to Burbank for the Friday night time race at Bob's Massive Boy. This place opened in 1949 and was designated a degree of historic curiosity by the State of California, however past that, the meals was wonderful and the parking was even higher.

By the best way, it's an actual Shelby Cobra.

Going into the desert allowed us to take a drive on a small a part of Historic Route 66 and take the route of the oldest In-N-Out Burger (East Foothill Blvd, Pasadena, inbuilt 1952) . and the go to window of the oldest McDonald's in operation (Lakewood Blvd, Downey, inbuilt 1953) served to fulfill this compelling want.

However none of this left me feeling like what I found at 10820 S Norwalk Blvd in Santa Fe Springs.

There cannot be too many gear outlets courting from the golden age of sizzling rodding, not to mention operated in the identical premises, however Moon Gear Co. is an exception to the rule.

Dean Moon moved to this deal with in 1956 and most of the pace items designed and branded by Moon are nonetheless manufactured right here right now on the identical machines they had been initially.

Earlier than diving into my exploration of iconic yellow buildings, a short historical past of Dean Moon himself is so as.

The story of Dean Moon

Born in 1927, Dean settled in Southern California together with his household on the age of 9. That very same 12 months, his dad and mom opened the Moon's Cafe in Santa Fe Springs – with a go-kart path known as Moonza – and, as anticipated, Dean was working part-time there, whereas he was not at house. college. In highschool, Dean discovered a part-time job in a machining store at a neighborhood Lincoln-Mercury dealership. There has gained hands-on expertise, in addition to in auto restore programs.

By the point he completed highschool, Dean was already promoting his first product – the Moon Gas Block – which he had designed and manufactured in school, however a navy profession was known as and he was quickly assigned to Japan by the US occupation forces. Upon his return to the USA, Dean based Moon Automotive together with his brother and led the operation in a small storage behind the household's cafe.

Through the Korean Conflict, Dean is put again into service and this time he’s an aerial photographer. On the finish of the struggle, Dean returned to Santa Fe Springs, bought land on Norwalk Avenue and at last opened a retailer.

Between the creation of Moon Gear Co. and his demise in 1987, Dean grew up and developed an organization that shortly turned an establishment within the sizzling rod world. Through the years, the long-lasting brand of the Mooneyes eyeball has been utilized to streetcars, dragraines, salt runners and the whole lot in between, and Moon's pace elements proceed for use worldwide.

After Dean's demise, his spouse, Shirley, ran the corporate for a number of years earlier than closing the doorways and placing the whole lot on maintain. It was right now that Shige Suganuma, a Japanese ruler and longtime buddy of Dean, intervened to protect Moon's legacy. Shige, who was then supplying Moon cash to the Japanese sizzling rod neighborhood, determined to purchase the whole lot – the shop, the inventory and the model.

Shirley Moon died in 1990. It took one other two years earlier than the shop was opened once more for enterprise, this time with Shige and his good buddy Chico Kodama on the helm. Since then, Mooneyes has developed worldwide with extra retailers and a worldwide community of sellers.

Whereas Shige relies in Japan in Mooneyes Zone 1 in Yokohama, Chico heads manufacturing operations positioned in the USA on the deal with of Norwalk Avenue. When not within the store, Chico additionally drives a 220mph + Modified Roadster, however extra about it quickly …


One of many many strengths of this firm is its willingness to introduce folks to its iconic facility. In actual fact, guests – a lot of whom come from the remotest elements of the world, like me – are inspired to ask for a go to, which is fairly cool.

Whereas Chico was working, I started to look the retail retailer, which in fact stocked all of the items made by Mooneyes, in addition to some chosen objects from different suppliers.

All of the classics are nonetheless right here – Moon Discs and Moon Tanks within the heart of town.

The vary of Mooneyes model merchandise and equipment is even bigger. It's straightforward to spend some huge cash right here – simply ask me. However contemplating the quantity of attention-grabbing issues that they earn, I don’t see how you wouldn’t need to go away and not using a bag or two treats (and perhaps a field of Moon Discs …).

Whereas merchandise has developed rather a lot since Shige and Chico took energy, Dean Moon was a real visionary when it got here to growing his model.

Way of life collaborations within the automotive world could seem to be a comparatively new factor, however Moon Gear Co. was doing it already in 1969 with a small shoemaker in Anaheim known as The Van Doren Rubber Firm. Fifty years later, Mooneyes nonetheless collaborates with Vans.

Within the nook of the showroom is a classic diorama that includes a mannequin automobile, a mannequin automobile Ed Roth. There's additionally a life-size "Massive Daddy" and his anti-hero, Rat Fink, too.

The Museum of the Moon

The Mooneyes Museum is correct subsequent to the primary coated storage.

As you would possibly anticipate, there are all types of issues right here, a lot of which date again to the new rodding days in Southern California.

It's very nice that so many reminiscences have been saved protected and that they aren’t misplaced through the years, and that they keep behind for everybody coming house.

The centerpiece of the museum on the time of my go to was Dean Moon's Ford streetcar courting again to 1934, which featured flat heads and a three × 2 Edelbrock energy outlet and, in fact, a yellow Mooneyes portray.

Judging by the registration sticker on the again plate, the Roadster is now not on the highway since Dean's demise.

Additional down the aisle is a three-block boulder constructing that’s now not used and now serves as Moon's warehouse and packaging / distribution division. In 1962, nevertheless, one thing very particular was born inside …

I'm speaking concerning the very first model of Shelby Cobra, codenamed CSX2000.

In accordance with historical past, on the time Carroll Shelby was receiving his first chassis of AC Automobiles in Britain, he was renting a workspace close to Dean Moon. For the Cobra prototype to be operational, Shelby employed workers from Moon, who shortly bought a Ford V8 engine on the entrance. Legend has it that when the hearth began, Shelby and Moon took the Cobra to the streets of Santa Fe Springs to go attempting to find the corvette.

The automobile nonetheless exists – in a used and unrestored state – and altered palms in 2016 on the RM Sotheby's Monterey public sale for $ 13.75 million (plus purchaser's charges).

The machining workshop

The final leg of my tour was the Mooneyes Machine Store, the place the place Moon Pace ​​performs come alive.

Simply contained in the entrance door is the recreation of the well-known 'Mooneyes' dragger of the 1960s. In actual fact, it's the second recreation; the primary – this naked chassis suspended from rafters – crashed in Japan in 2005.

The unique quarter mile machine nonetheless exists, however being too helpful for the race, this nearly excellent reproduction was created as a way to hold the legend alive. Surprisingly, it makes use of all of the classic items, together with the Dragmaster chassis round which it was constructed and the small Chevrolet V8 engine with a Potvin fan.

Chico's automobile is constructed for an additional type of racing in a straight line – the one that happens on the Bonneville Salt Flats. The bodywork of the Ford Mannequin T (with crawler nostril) fiberglass27 features a customized chassis and a small Chevy Chevrolet V8 supercharged by Potvin constructed by Fred Larson and operating on alcohol. His greatest consequence up to now: 221 mph (355 km / h).

Being a very good machine store, you anticipate to see the tools in every single place, however don’t simply search for state-of-the-art multi-axis mills or the like on this location. A number of the equipment has been there for a really very long time and I don’t assume it is going to go anyplace else sooner or later. By preserving a few of the lunar magic, Shige and Chico are dedicated to creating items utilizing the nice previous days.

The moon disk is a favourite, and Dean Moon made these items in his Moon Automotive storage earlier than shifting to this location. Not solely do they give the impression of being nice, however they had been initially designed as aerodynamic aids, which is why many old style runners nonetheless use them on salt – Chico included.

Along with the tools for automobiles, motorbikes and bicycles, there may be even a Moon Disc Tesla Mannequin S model S now, and I'm advised that by putting in them you get much more attain.

To be taught extra about how they got here from a flat alloy circle, you’ll be able to watch 4 (previous) clips on YouTube, beginning with the primary right here.

When Mooneyes began creating the bike model, they shortly started to build up a set of remaining heart sections. It didn’t take lengthy to know that it was the right dimension for a small clock – now a well-liked Moon product.

All Moon molded merchandise are manufactured off-site, however all of the ending work is completed within the machining store. Chico has proven the total vary of Moon Tanks, which vary from large gas tanks to small tanks like this distant grasp cylinder tank.

Though this retailer has all the required tools for the development and upkeep of automobiles and bikes, it’s now solely private initiatives up to now.

I realized one thing new throughout my go to when Chico confirmed me this bike mannequin. I didn’t know that these items even existed, however it turned out that Harley-Davidson offered a few of its tooling tools to Japan within the 1940s, which resulted in a model known as Rikuo. A JDM Harley – now, it seems like what’s made from a cool bike undertaking …

I might have spent lots of time within the store, as a result of wherever you flip, you’ll discover much more treasures.

Lastly, my time at Santa Fe Springs, 10820 S Norwalk Blvd, was to finish.

I cannot assist however consider what might need occurred if Shige and Chico had not intervened, however since Mooneyes solely grew up – at one and the identical time right here in SoCal and in every single place else on the planet – they had been undoubtedly the suitable folks. carry the torch into the 21st century.

Even if you’re not very fond of warmth, this place is certainly price visiting if you’re within the neighborhood. And in the event you wanted an excuse to go, this Saturday is the annual Mooneyes USA Open Home occasion; it’s subsequently assured that automobiles and other people will come collectively, impressed by the Moon model.

If solely I had been somewhat nearer …

Brad Lord
Instagram: speedhunters_brad

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